Despite the Latin guitar riffs that open DJ Khaled’s latest single “Wild Thoughts”, the baseline isn’t immediately distinctive. In fact, when Rihanna’s voice sets into the tempo with the same Barbadian drawl that made “Work” last year, you feel as though you’re listening to a song that was intended to work solely on the quality of its performances. But DJ Khaled’s severely underrated ability as a sound curator is highlighted here by a guitar sample of Carlos Sanatana’s 1999 Billboard-topping single, “Maria Maria” for a post-chorus instrumental hook.
Though there is a general consensus about the excellent quality of production of “Wild Thoughts”, music heads initially raised eyebrows at the Carlos Santana sample. As replays would go on to prove however, the cut sits well atop steel shakers and soft drums, easing a blend of the past into Rihanna and Bryson Tiller’s performance for a glimpse at the future: this boys and girls is how to use a sample the right way.
In an Afropop soundscape where artists still lift entire song parts from older recordings with the intent to sample, very little changes can be made to reinvent old sounds. This is perhaps why the greatest bone many pick with Afropop is in the inherent regurgitation of sounds because samples are lifted with very little interest in advancing the culture.
The creators of Afropop need to take a cue from DJ Khaled, we all deserve more than club songs with Fela samples sitting awkwardly in the middle of the track.